Monday, January 28, 2013

How To Cancel An Alaskan Airlines Ticket Without A Fee [NOT]

[UPDATE Feb. 17:  It didn't work.  When I tried to apply my balance to a new ticket, they added the $75 penalty fee I hadn't paid yet.  I knew it was too good to be true.]

[UPDATE June 5, 2015:  Cancellation fees were raised to $125 a while ago. Not all fares have cancellation fees.  My sense is these fees have nothing to do with costs.  It's extortion.  They do it because they can.  Finding this on their website is hard.  However, the Ask Jenn feature did give me the page quickly. ]

[UPDATE Aug 8, 2014:  There is a way - be in the MVP Gold (40,000 or more miles) category.  A table on Elite Status says "Fee Waivers - Call Center Ticketing Fee, Ticket Change/Cancellation Fee, Left on Board Item Return Fee."   Oh dear, I didn't know there was a fee for getting something you left on board.]

When you buy the cheap tickets on Alaska Airlines, the agreement says you have to pay a $75 change fee if you change on line and $100 if you do it by phone or in person.  But a cancelled credit card led me to an option with no fee.  The canceled card kept me from cancelling the ticket on-line, because I couldn't pay the fee with my old card.

[Note:  You can change or cancel an online booked Alaska Airlines ticket within 24 hours for no fee.]

(If you want to skip the background and just find out how to cancel without a fee jump down to 'back to the Alaska Airline ticket.)

So, we have an Alaskan Airlines credit card.  It got rejected back in December when I was trying to pay my way out of the Anchorage Airport parking lot.  That night the operator said it had been cancelled by the cardholder, neither I nor my wife had cancelled it.  And, she noted, people who mess with your card usually do so to use it, not to cancel it.  The next morning when I got the accounting office they said it was cancelled because they didn't have my wife's social security number.  That they'd sent us a letter and we hadn't responded so they cancelled it.  I didn't remember getting a letter when we talked, but since then I remembered.  It was pretty dicey looking - the pages looked xeroxed and the logo was black and white and not in color.  I even called my tax person and asked why my credit card would send a letter asking for my wife's social security number.  We decided it was snail mail spam.

But the operator told me this was required by the Patriot Act and I pointed out it had been passed ten years ago, so it seemed they'd survived all this time . . but she said there were new directives enforcing it and requiring banks to get all the info.  And the reason it said that the customer cancelled the card was to not hurt our credit rating by having something say the bank cancelled our card.  And then she said we had to fax or mail the number in - we couldn't do it by phone.  Not sure what I said in reply (I was polite, but I'm sure I had some smart retort) and she consulted her supervisor and took J's SS# over the phone.

Then, in LA just now, the restaurant said our card was declined.  We called Visa from the restaurant and were assured it was good and transferred to Security, but it disconnected.  So I called again and again was told the card was good and this time he suggested the restaurant's card reader was bad.  We paid cash.

The next day my wife had the card refused somewhere else.  We called again and this time we were told that it was cancelled because one of the vendors we'd used had a security breach and so the cards were cancelled.  They'd sent us a new card.  But we were in LA and the card went to Anchorage.  And we were getting ready to go to Seattle.  They'd fed ex it to Seattle.

Back to the Alaska Airline ticket.  I'd made a reservation to fly to Seattle to Anchorage, but we'd had to go to LA first to check on my mom.  So I wanted to cancel the original ticket.  But when I tried to get the cost of the ticket put into my 'wallet' (Alaska Airline's name for a customer account that can be used to buy tickets or food on a flight) I couldn't because I needed a good credit card to pay the cancellation fee.  (Visa did say I could get a security code for each transaction by calling them when the vendor tried to use the card, but that doesn't work online.) I thought maybe they'd just take the fee out of the money they were putting in the 'wallet' but no, I had to pay that extra.

So I called Alaska to explain my plight:  I can't pay the fee because my Alaska Airlines credit card was cancelled and new one hadn't arrived yet.    That's when Adonica told me to choose the last option - to have them email me my ticket number which I could then apply to another ticket within a year.

"But how do I pay the penalty fee?"

And she said the magic words, "There is no fee if you do it this way." [UPDATE:  Well, there was no fee when I canceled the ticket, but later when I tried to apply the money to another ticket, $75 was added to the fare.]

So, even though you have to pay a change fee of $75 to $100 (online or phone), if you cancel the ticket and apply it to another ticket in a year, there's no fee. [UPDATE:  Again, turns out not to be so.] If I hadn't had my credit card cancelled, I don't think I would have found this out. [But again, this is just a delayed fee, not no fee.]

Keep looking for those silver linings.

Speaking of which, we saw Silver Lining Playbook.  I think if I hadn't heard that it was a good movie and that it was one of the five up for the Academy's best films, I would have liked it much more.  It's good.  Characters are good.  Acting is good.  But it just isn't a heavyweight film in my mind. 

Oh yes.  We got the new cards later that day.  Then the next day I got an email from Visa saying my new credit cards had been sent and should arrive soon.  Sigh. 

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